April 24th, 2011 :: Reading Days
Show me again the time
When in the Junetide's prime
We flew by meads and mountains northerly!--
Yes, to such freshness, fairness, fulness, fineness,
Love lures life on.
Show me again the day
When from the sandy bay
We looked together upon the pestered sea!--
Yes, to such surging, swaying, sighing, swelling,
Love lures life on.
Show me again the hour
When by the pinnacled tower
We eyed each other and feared futurity!--
Yea, to such bodings, broodings, beatings,
Love lures life on.
Show me again the just this:
The moment of that kiss
Away from the prancing folk, by the
Yea, to such rashness, ratheness, rareness,
Love lures life on.
April 17th, 2011 :: Reading Days
One of the unfortunate by-products of being in graduate school is that I donít read as much. Actually, I should clarify that sentence: I donít read as much for pleasure
. I read, I can assure you. Oh yes, I read. In fact, in the next few months I will have read more research articles than most people do in a lifetime. This, I can tell you, is nothing to look forward to.
But recently I have come to the conclusion that unless I just begin reading books I want to read, even if I think I have no time to do so, I will never find the time. This, I know, is not profound, but nevertheless it feels like a small piece of wisdom to hang onto these days. And so, even though I have no real business doing so, even though my garden is screaming for attention, even though I have music to learn and papers to write, even though my house needs serious cleaning, I am reading.
In celebration of this little act, here are a few books and authors that I have recently found. That these writers would now make my top 10 list and I hadnít read ANY of them a year ago, reminds me that thereís a lifetime of good reading still to be discovered.
A Place of My Own
by Michael Pollan. I know I am slow to jump on the Michael Pollan
bandwagon. In fact, I still havenít read that Omnivoresís Dilemma
. But I will, one of these days, because I am so taken with Pollanís style. I think he could write about anything and make it interesting. This book is about him building, with his own two hands and some helpful friends, a writing studio. Itís a wonderful, inspiring read and makes me want to do the same, almost.
The Fiddler in the Subway
by Gene Weingarten
. I once used this Pultizer Prize winning essay as the inspiration for an American Music Teacher
column. This is a collection of essays written by Weingarten for the Washington Post. They are, every last one of them, brilliantly written.
Letís Take the Long Way Home
by Gail Caldwell
. OK. I lied just a bit. I had read Gail Caldwell before this year, as she was the book critic for the Boston Globe while we lived there. I used to read every review she wrote even if I could care less about the book, because her writing was so stunning. I had been hearing about this book, subtitled A Memoir of Friendship
, since it was published last year, and in mid-November reserved it from the library. Only last week--last week!--did I get an email telling me that this book was waiting for me. This long waiting list should have been my first clue that this book was something special.
I read it in 24 hours and immediately went out and bought a copy for myself and my two best friends. This is not just a book about friendship, although it is that, it is also an ode to building a life for yourself that you can be proud of. The sub-themes are too numerous to list here, but as I emailed several friends in the days after finishing this beautiful book, ďRun, donít walk to your nearest bookstore/library and get this book.Ē
You will thank me.
April 10th, 2011 :: Reading Days
Not quite four a.m., when the rapture of being alive
strikes me from sleep, and I rise
from the comfortable bed and go
to another room, where my books are lined up
in their neat and colorful rows. How
magical they are! I choose one
and open it. Soon
I have wandered in over the waves of the words
to the temple of thought.
And then I hear
outside, over the actual waves, the small,
perfect voice of the loon. He is also awake,
and with his heavy head uplifted he calls out
to the fading moon, to the pink flush
swelling in the east that, soon,
will become the long, reasonable day.
Inside the house
it is still dark, except for the pool of lamplight
in which I am sitting.
I do not close the book.
Neither, for a long while, do I read on.
What Do We Know
April 3rd, 2011 :: Practicing Days
It is time to return to that damn list.
, as we shall call it, has generated a lot of reader response. Nothing I have said in years has piqued this kind of interest. Clearly, a lot of people out there care about practicing.
But life has a way of getting in the way of lists of any kind. There was that trip to Chicago with Matt a few weeks ago. There have been concerts to play and a 25-hour recording project to put to bed. I had to write a couple papers, and take a mid-term on cognitive development. The garden has been screaming for attention, and this week my cats, for no apparent reason, have been trying to kill one another. As you can tell, Iíve had a lot on my mind.
That doesnít mean, however, that I have not been thinking about practicing, because I am always thinking about practicing. It is not hard to present a list of practicing techniques, whatís difficult is to figure out where to begin. Thinking this over, I decided to begin where our students begin if we do not intervene: they simply repeat mindlessly.
I know this, because when I ask, they tell me. Sometimes they tell me this sheepishly, knowing that they should have done better. Sometimes they reveal this practice strategy quite proudly.
Take this encounter, for example:
Yesterday, Jake played his little intermediate Mozart minuet, which had more mistakes in it than not. My first question is a predictable one.
ďSo, how did you practice this?Ē
ďWell, now I am thinking that this wasnít such a good idea, but I just played it a lot of times.Ē
Jake at least has enough wherewithal to know that Iím not going to like this answer. Iím somewhat gratified to hear this recognition, but still, given the poor performance I have just heard, it would have been nice if this self-reflection could have come earlier in the week.
This practice approach is hardly unusual, and if you think your students arenít just ďplaying it a lot of timesĒ then you are probably deceiving yourself. In fact, I wrote a paper last semester dealing with self-regulation and student practice and found several studies where researchers examining student practice strategies discovered that overwhelmingly the most popular strategy was repetition.
Itís time to change that.
But change is hard, because if I am honest with myself, I resort to the good old ďplay it a lot of timesĒ strategy myself from time to time. Repetition has its place, certainly. The key is noticing when repetition isnít markedly improving the situation.
So. We begin our list with a nod to the power and temptation that repetition has in our practice routines and the challenge to notice whether or not it is working.
Sometimes it will. But often, as Jake would say, ďit wasnít such a good idea.Ē